Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Double-lung transplant patient to perform opera at Cleveland Clinic summit

I'm continually amazed at the transformation and recovery that people experience after undergoing an organ transplant. Here is a double-lung recipient only 8 months post transplant performing at the Cleveland Clinic and singing Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" to the doctors, nurses and hospital staff who saw her through it all.

By Kaye Spector, The Plain Dealer

May 25, 2010, 8:00AM

Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick went to her first opera, Hansel and Gretel, at age 4. She knew then what she wanted to do and what she wanted to be.
She now sings soaring soprano coloratura, delivering difficult passages of high, rapid notes. She mastered the technique after years of rigorous training.
She hasn't let go of her dream, even though she battled pulmonary arterial hypertension for years before undergoing open heart surgery and a double lung transplant.
Wednesday she takes the stage at the Cleveland Clinic's Patient Experience Summit. She will dedicate her rendition of Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" to the doctors, nurses and hospital staff who saw her through it all.
The Denver resident began "building a relationship" with the Cleveland Clinic doctors shortly after she was diagnosed in 2004 at age 21.
Tillemann-Dick and her doctors in Colorado and at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore tried to deal with her condition through treatment. But the possibility of a transplant always loomed. She knew she would likely have it done at the Clinic.
"My doctors told me it was the best place to go," she says.
With pulmonary arterial hypertension, the blood vessels that supply the lungs constrict and the walls thicken, so the blood vessels can't carry as much blood. The heart has to work harder to force the blood through and pressure builds up. There's less blood circulating through the lungs picking up oxygen. Patients become tired, dizzy and short of breath.
Pulmonary hypertension was a "daunting prospect" for the coloratura soprano.
"The most important thing is air flow," she says. "It's tremendously demanding work."
Tillemann-Dick didn't tell many people about her condition so she could keep on singing. She wore a pump the size of a cassette tape strapped to her leg or torso.
"When I sang, it was the only time I did not feel challenged by my physical disability. I had this freakish lung capacity," she says. "But the truth was I was very sick."
By 2009, she was having difficulty singing. She had canceled 100 engagements in the course of a year and decided she could not continue.
"I realized I couldn't maintain my good name as an artist," she says.
She had the transplant at the Clinic in September and returned home at Christmastime, determined to sing again.
She took tentative steps toward music by humming. After a few weeks she tried to sing some gentle songs: jazz, folk music. More time passed. She moved on to more demanding music: theater standards. A few weeks later, she was singing her opera repertoire. In March, she began taking lessons again with her regular voice teacher.
"Coming back to Cleveland to sing is really a dream come true, considering I'm not even a year out," she said in a phone interview during a taxicab ride to the Intercontinental Hotel on Monday morning.
"It's a miracle and I'm so glad to share that."

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario or Download Donor Cards from Trillium Gift of Life Network. NEW for Ontario: - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here
In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save up to eight lives with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help 75 to 100 other people by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves
Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You

No comments: